WILL IT BE A WILD RIDE? Passengers of Uber or Lyft Face Risks
Most of the time, Uber and Lyft passengers are taken to their destinations safely and without incident, but sometimes the road gets rough and there’s no telling what might happen once you sign up to hire a driver.
Passengers have shared all kinds of crazy experiences since these ride-share companies began offering services to customers through their apps. There are those who have been spit on, punched in the face, hit with hammers, strangled, raped and or sexually assaulted, called names or listened to racist rants, injured or killed in an accident, or had to hold their breath during a high-speed chase.
Certainly anytime you are riding in a vehicle on a given roadway, there’s a chance you’ll be involved in a collision or altercation with other motorists. However, if you are a passenger who gets hurt in a ride-share vehicle, buckle up and prepare for an uphill battle with the insurance company.
Millions of people hire ride-share companies such as Uber or Lyft instead of a commercial taxi service because they are cheaper, but they may not realize that if they hurt or if they are assaulted by a driver that getting compensation may be complicated .
Did you know that Uber drivers are not considered employees of the company? Indeed, these drivers are classified as independent contractors. While they undergo a screening or background check annually, it does not include fingerprinting or a more extensive deep background check. One problem is Uber’s alleged reliance on credit-reporting systems for screening drivers. Critics say this is inadequate because those records only cover the past seven years whereas fingerprint records provide a much further history into a person’s background.
These independent contractors who use Uber’s software application perform a ride-share service to passengers. Under this technology platform, Uber or Lyft finds ways to deny liability when their drivers are involved in a collision or they assault their passengers. For instance, if the driver is not logged in to the app at the time of the incident, the ride-share company will try to deny liability. This is a significant contrast to how a company would be held liable if someone was hurt because of their employee’s actions or driving.
An important distinction is that unlike a typical licensed transportation carrier, Uber and Lyft classify themselves as “technology companies.” This allows them to avoid stringent regulations that govern drivers of taxi or limousine companies that are required to do criminal background checks and monitor their drivers. They are not employers and they never even meet these drivers who are providing the rides to passengers using their app. Ride-share companies proudly state they are merely connecting passengers and drivers.
The Competitive Ride-share Market
Indeed, Uber is one the largest ride-share company to offer people an alternative to taxicabs this past decade.
Using the company’s ride-share app allows individuals to request rides from nearby drivers through their phones. It’s much cheaper than conventional taxi services and often much quicker due to the proximity-based matching system and state-of-the-art GPS technology.
In 2018, some 95 million people used the Uber app on a monthly basis and held roughly 67 percent of the ride share market, according to Statista.
San Francisco-based Uber is one of the most popular ride sharing apps in the world with a global net revenue at the end of 2018 of $14.7 billion U.S. dollars and 5.23 billion rides delivered in 2018.
Lyft, on the other hand, held roughly 29 percent of the market. Consumers in San Francisco spent about $110 per month on Uber services, for example, versus $79 for Lyft.
Risks, Dangers of Taking a Ride with Uber or Lyft
There are certainly risks any time you hire a company to give you a ride, but there are dangers when traveling in an Uber or Lyft vehicle that set them apart from taxis or hired chauffeurs.
The most common risk is being involved in a traffic accident or collision, but there is also the risk of assault and battery or sexual assault involving the drivers. Women who are alone in one of these vehicles after a night out drinking are often the target of unscrupulous drivers.
There were at least 103 Uber drivers in the US between 2014 and 2018 were accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers. A CNN study found that 31 drivers were convicted for crimes including forcible touching, false imprisonment and even rape.
A recent case (Aug. 10, 2019) reported by the Associated Press involved a 25-year-old woman was allegedly raped by a Lyft driver in the San Francisco Bay area. Just like many others who rely on these rideshare companies to take them home after a night of drinking, the intoxicated woman called for a ride after leaving a bar in San Mateo. She passed out in the back seat and was driven to the home of the Lyft driver, Tonye Kolokolo where he allegedly raped her. He was arrested and faces charges of false imprisonment and rape.
Uber and Lyft Insurance Policy Limits
Since Uber and Lyft classify drivers as independent contractors, they are required to carry their own personal auto insurance. However, a driver’s personal insurance does not cover passengers in the vehicle if they driver is working for a ride-share service. It’s important to know that Uber and Lyft provide supplemental insurance coverage that applies only when the app is on.
A wrongful death claim by the parents of a 6-year-old child who was struck and killed by an Uber driver in 2014, for example, was denied by the company because the driver was not logged in to the app at the time of the crash. The San Francisco crash may not have happened if Uber had done an extensive background check on the driver, Syed Muzaffer who had a reckless driving conviction prior to becoming an Uber driver.
Once the Uber app is turned off, the driver is covered by their own personal car insurance. So who covers you if you are hurt and the app is not turned on?
If you are a passenger in a ride-share vehicle and are hit by an uninsured driver, Uber carries uninsured motorist coverage up to $1,000,000.
When the driver has the app on and is waiting for a customer, he or she is covered for up to $50,000 per person in liability damage, but no more than $100,000 per accident. There is also $25,000 for property damage. When the driver is heading to pick up a passenger or during a trip, there is $1 million in coverage that also covers occupants if there is a collision with an uninsured motorist.
At the very least, these ride-share companies will probably give you a refund for your trip if you tell them that the driver was involved in an accident. Both the driver and passenger should do this immediately after the ride is over submitting a feedback report or using the help option to alert the company.
The company’s insurance agent will contact you to confirm the details.
Causes of Uber Crashes
- Smartphone app use while driving
- Distracted driving
- Speeding or driver urgency
- Driver errors
- Reckless driving
Steps for Passengers after an accident on a Ride-share Trip
- Download or take a screenshot of your trip itinerary
- Take photographs of involved vehicles
- Take down names of drivers involved, witnesses and contact information
- Ask your attorney to obtain the driver’s electronic “Driving” Information”
Our California personal injury attorneys ave extensive experience helping Uber or Lyft accident victims and their families. If you would like our lawyer to review your case, call us to request a free consultation at 800-235-6801.
Contact our Uber Accident and Sexual Assault Attorneys
Johnson Attorneys Group is here to help. We have the experience, knowledge and resources to help you with your California Uber or Lyft lawsuits. If you were hurt or sexually assaulted by a ride-share operator, contact us to request a free case evaluation. Contact us now to for a free consultation. 1-800-235-6801.
Johnson Attorneys Group does not represent any of the parties mentioned above nor is it our intent to represent any of the parties. If you would like to contribute to this story, please contact us.